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The Foreign Policy of the
Dr. William Maley
Winston Churchill once observed that the people of Germany
had done enough for the history of the world. A similar observation
could appropriately have been made about the Taliban movement
in Afghanistan. The shattering events of a bright September
morning in New York and Washington DC highlighted even for
those who had never heard of the Taliban that something dreadful
was at loose in the world. For those who had followed the
rise of the Taliban, and the flourishing under their protection
of networks such as Usama Bin Laden's Al-Qaida, there was
in most cases a deeper poignancy: the sense of having been
unable to avert a slide to disaster. For in both the constitution
of the Taliban, and the detail of their foreign policy, the
warning signs were written in prominent script. It is with
these signs that this study is concerned.
For movements which ground their legitimacy on claims of
transcendent universality, the notion of 'foreign policy'
is in some ways a curious one. It implies a degree of accommodation
with a world in which the fruits of universal good have yet
to be exploited. When Stalin put forward the policy of 'Socialism
in One Country' in 1924, it came as a shock to a number of
his Bolshevik colleagues, for whom Marxism had provided a
'scientific' demonstration of the marginality of national
identifications in a world in which the great boundary between
peoples was set by class.
In the realm of religion, such compromises could be equally
controversial. When the Peace of Westphalia of 1648 put an
end to the hopes of an undivided Christendom, the Pope responded
by labeling it 'null, void, invalid, iniquitous, unjust, damnable,
reprobate, inane, and devoid of meaning for all time'.
Yet on closer scrutiny, the fact that transcendent movements
should also pursue foreign policies is not quite so strange.
Religious movements are fashioned from what Kant called 'the
crooked timber of humanity',
and as a result they are bearers of particularity as well
as universality. It is rarely illuminating to speak of 'civilizations'
as political entities, although shared cultural norms and
values may provide a certain amount of context within which
political actors function. It is even less illuminating to
treat religions as monolithic determinants of political behavior.
This is true of Christianity, and it is also true of Islam.
As James P. Piscatori has observed, 'the seamless unity of
dar al-islam has been as great a legal fiction as the bifurcation
of the world into hostile camps'.
And few Islamic movements have demonstrated this as potently
as the Taliban in Afghanistan.
The aim of this study is to explore the challenges which
the Taliban faced in coming to terms with the wider world,
particularly in the period after they occupied the Afghan
capital Kabul following the retreat of the Rabbani Government
in September 1996 and began to claim for themselves a status
defined not simply by Islam, but by the structures of international
society which had developed in the aftermath of the establishment
in 1945 of the United Nations as an organization of sovereign
states. It is divided into seven sections. In the first, I
discuss some general problems in analyzing foreign policy.
In the second, I give a brief account of the contexts within
which Afghan foreign policy has historically been devised.
In the third, I note some of the specific characteristics
of the Taliban movement. The fourth deals with the Taliban's
broad international objectives, and traces the relationship
of these objectives to concerns to achieve regime consolidation.
The fifth examines the tensions between developing international
norms of conduct, and Taliban domestic policies, which thwarted
Taliban efforts to secure widespread acceptance. The sixth
addresses Taliban policy towards a number of important states.
The seventh deals with the radicalisation of the Taliban,
and the circumstances which led to the September 2001 crisis
in the Taliban's relations with the wider world, and offers
some recommendations for U.S. policy towards Afghanistan and
'The Taliban', Olivier Roy has argued, 'have no foreign
policy'. If foreign policy is viewed
in purely programmatic terms this is certainly the case, but
the proposition does not hold if one accepts that behavior
offers a window through which policy orientations can be discerned.
Those who write about foreign policy usually direct their
attention to the foreign policy of states, and this considerably
reduces the complexity of the task which they confront. It
is commonly the case that within states one can find bureaucratic
agencies charged with the task of producing programmatic documents
dealing with the relations of their state with the wider world.
However, such documents can at best be a starting point for
serious foreign policy analysis, since the discrepancies between
'declared' policy and steps actually taken by a state can
be massive. For a more nuanced account, one will need to examine
the behavior of the state, in the hope of finding patterns
of action from which a disposition to act in particular ways
might be inferred.
That said, two qualifications are in order. First, the distinction
between statements and 'behavior' should not be drawn too
sharply, since some types of statement are also actions
-or as a shrewd diplomat once put it, 'words are bullets'.
Second, it is by no means the case that all states will be
capable of articulating or enacting a 'policy' sufficiently
coherent to merit the title. Different bureaucratic agencies
may be free to pursue their own agendas, free from the discipline
imposed by a superordinate authority, in which case discerning
a clear foreign policy line may be very difficult indeed.
Similar challenges can arise when one discusses the foreign
policy of movements. In part this reflects the diversity of
the phenomena which such a label can embrace. At its most
basic the word 'movement' may simply be a synonym for 'party'.
This usage is well established in Persian, where the Arabic
word Harakat ('movement') has been used to designate organisations
which might just as easily have carried the Arabic label Hezb
('party'). Movements in this sense may well produce programmatic
documents on foreign policy issues, and if they are oppositional
movements with no access to state power, these may provide
the only basis upon which their foreign policies can be identified
and evaluated. Unfortunately, matters become a good deal messier
when 'movement' means more than just 'party'. This is partly
because at this point, the exact meaning of 'social movement'
proves hard to pin down: Paul Wilkinson has rightly pointed
to the 'diversity and confusion of conceptualizations' of
the term. For
the purposes of this study of the Taliban movement, I take
as a starting point the definition of movement offered by
Sidney Tarrow: movements are 'collective challenges by people
with common purposes and solidarity in sustained interaction
with elites, opponents, and authorities'.
But even once such a precise definition of 'movement' is accepted,
movements which are captured by the definition are likely
to prove so inchoate that to depict them as authors of 'policy'
(of any kind) is to speak metaphorically rather than empirically.
This problem has been neatly captured by Tarrow: 'Internally,
a good part of the power of movements comes from the fact
that they activate people over whom they have no control.
This power is a virtue because it allows movements to mount
collective actions without possessing the resources that would
be necessary to internalize a support base. But the autonomy
of their supporters also disperses the movement's power, encourages
factionalism and leaves it open to defection, competition
This is not to deny that movements typically have leaders
whose utterances can be analyzed. But they are likely also
to contain a large number of undisciplined followers-some
of them potential leaders-who offer their views freely on
a wide range of topics, including foreign policy. The low
level of institutionalization of movements can make it very
difficult to tell into which category some particular 'spokesman'
It is extremely rare for consolidated, highly institutionalized
states to be successfully taken over by movements of this
variety. A crisis in the legitimacy of a ruling elite is likely
to lead to its displacement by some counter-elite, such as
the military through a coup d'état, or some defecting
fragment of the old elite. Where the institutions of the state
have crumbled or collapsed,
the situation is quite different. In such circumstances, political
dominance will be claimed by those who can control the symbols
of the state: they need not be capable of administering complex
state institutions with complex roles, for such institutions
have effectively ceased to exist. In the short-to-medium term,
movements which find themselves in this position are unlikely
to be able to take more than symbolic steps in domestic politics,
for they lack the instruments to do so, most importantly revenues,
and bureaucracies to collect and spend them. In the sphere
of foreign policy, it is easier to make a mark, since much
can be done with words alone. However, which words matter
may again be difficult to determine, for two reasons. First,
a movement may not control all the symbols of the state, but
only some: its foreign policy pronouncements may be contested
by other political forces. Second, within the movement, too
many words may flow from too many mouths, creating a cacophony
of signals which defy ready interpretation by the wider world.
Both these problems confronted the Taliban after they overran
One final point. Since the foreign policy of a state is
made up of a complex mixture of declarations and actions,
the boundaries of foreign policy are not fixed: they are flexible
and contestable, involving interaction with a wider world
and feedback from it. While a regime may protest that what
occurs within its frontiers is a matter of sovereign responsibility
and no business of other states, to the extent that those
states make it their business, it becomes a foreign policy
problem for the regime. And to a far greater extent than the
Taliban seem to have anticipated, their domestic policies
played a significant role in shaping their foreign policy
dilemmas. Those Taliban charged with attempting to present
an acceptable face to the wider world rapidly found themselves
entangled in a particularly awkward two-level game.
Viscount Palmerston's nostrum that there are no eternal
allies, only eternal interests, serves as a useful reminder
that the foreign policy moves of the Taliban are to some extent
the product of context. In the following remarks, I wish to
identify some of the constraints which the Taliban faced as
a result of Afghanistan's geopolitical position, and the attitudinal
legacies in both Afghanistan and its region which continue
to limit the freedom of action of Afghan policy makers.
What is now the state of Afghanistan emerged in the nineteenth
century as a landlocked buffer between the Russian Empire
and British India, dominated in the last two decades of the
century by the British-backed Mohammadzai Pushtun Amir Abdul
and ruled almost uninterruptedly thereafter by Mohammadzai
Pushtun dynasties until the communist coup of April 1978.
The desire to avoid domination by its immediate neighbors
prompted a search at different times for friendship and support
from more remote 'countervailing powers'-including pre-war
Germany, and the postwar United States-in
order to reinforce a stated policy of 'neutrality' (bi tarafi).
And its landlocked character has helped shape Afghan foreign
policy ever since. The most dramatic manifestation of this
surfaced during the so-called 'Pushtunistan dispute', a territorial
conflict which arose, following the partition of India, from
Afghanistan's refusal to accept the 1893 'Durand Line' as
an international border separating ethnic Pushtuns in Afghanistan
from ethnic Pushtuns in the Northwest Frontier of Pakistan.
When diplomatic relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan
were suspended between September 1961 and May 1963, Afghanistan's
foreign trade was hard hit as well, and laborious maneuverings
were required to secure the export of perishable commodities
via India and the USSR. Indeed, the economic costs to Afghanistan
of its isolation undoubtedly played a role in the resignation
in March 1963 of Prime Minister Daoud, who had been a leading
figure agitating on the Pushtunistan issue. Afghanistan's
geopolitical vulnerability was plain for all to see.
The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979 exposed
another kind of geopolitical dilemma which Afghanistan faced,
as a victim of deteriorating relations between the superpowers.
In the United States, President Carter took the lead in construing
the Soviet presence in Afghanistan as a possible 'stepping
stone' towards the oil resources of the Persian Gulf,
but the subsequent release of Soviet archival material has
not lent support to this interpretation.
Rather, reported comments in January 1998 of Carter's National
Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, to the effect that the
Carter Administration approved support for anti-communist
groups before the invasion in order to 'increase the probability'
of a Soviet plunge into what would become a quagmire,
suggest that the Afghans may have fallen victim to Washington's
perception that Afghanistan was simply a pawn on a geopolitical
chessboard. It is by now a commonplace proposition that post-communist
Afghanistan has been destabilized by the self-interested meddling
of its self-styled 'friends', but it seems that this is not
as novel a development as one might have thought.
The disintegration of the Soviet Union extracted Afghanistan
from one set of geopolitical complexities but enmeshed it
in another. In developmental terms, Soviet Central Asia had
long been treated as a backwater, both by Moscow and by the
wider world. Corrupted local cliques enjoyed considerable
power, especially in Uzbekistan,
but played no significant role in shaping Soviet foreign policy.
As a result of the chain of events which followed the failed
coup attempt in Moscow in August 1991, the Central Asian Republics
found themselves thrust into independent statehood after a
mere four months. While the exact scope of this 'independence'
was debatable, given the continued military presence of Russian
troops through the mechanism of the Commonwealth of Independent
States (CIS), the post-independence leaderships were faced
with the problem of finding ways of securing their own positions,
and with the need to address issues which previously had not
fallen within their purview, such as the management of foreign
political and economic relations.
While Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan abut the Caspian Sea, in
economic terms all five new states face problems of isolation
similar to those which afflict landlocked Afghanistan. They
control very significant energy resources, but require outlets
for these resources if they are to be able to secure rentier
income of the kind which could both detach them from the domination
of their Russian neighbor, and secure social-eudæmonic
legitimation for ruling elites. Afghanistan straddles a major
route for the transport of energy resources to viable markets,
and this has thrust Afghanistan into the vortex of international
oil and gas politics, in a way which would have been unthinkable
had the USSR not collapsed.
Finally, it is important to note that Afghanistan is also
positioned between two other troubled regions, South Asia
to its east, and the Middle East to its west. The poisonous
character of relations between India and Pakistan-two nuclear-weapons
states themselves exposed to significant domestic strains-has
prompted Pakistan to look to Afghanistan as a source for the
strategic depth which Pakistan lacks.
This has made Afghanistan a secondary theatre in which Indo-Pakistani
rivalry has been played out. Furthermore, in the aftermath
of the 1979 Iranian revolution, the antagonism between the
Shiite rulers of Iran and the conservative Sunni elite in
Saudi Arabia has also been played out to some extent in Afghanistan,
although in different ways at different times.
All in all, from a geopolitical point of view Afghanistan
could hardly be in a worse position.
Afghan foreign policy is also significantly affected by attitudes
prevalent amongst its neighbors as a result of events in recent
decades. In Russia, on the one hand, the recollection of the
disaster which its 1979 invasion became is so strong that
fear of further contamination spreading from present-day Afghanistan
into the Russian-protected states of Central Asia is potent
in Moscow. In Pakistan, on the other hand, the memory of the
Pushtunistan dispute has haunted Afghanistan's relations with
Pakistan. Furthermore, Pakistan's role as a 'frontline state'
during the Soviet presence in Afghanistan, during which its
Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) sought to promote
what it saw as pro-Pakistan Pushtun elements within the Afghan
has left a dangerous legacy, most markedly in 'the extent
to which Pakistan's military establishment has been transfixed
by the conviction that in some obscure manner Pakistan's role
in aiding the victory of the Mujahideen over Moscow's placemen
has earned Islamabad the right to decide who should or should
not rule in Kabul'.
The Taliban have been the most recent beneficiaries of such
Who, then, are the Taliban? The answer to this question
is not straightforward: supporters paint them as simply a
collection of innocent students on a mission of purification,
while opponents depict them as at best, agents of the Pakistani
ISI, and at worst, Pakistani officers disguised as Afghans.
Unfortunately, while neither of these extremes properly captures
the complexity of the movement, for reasons of space the following
remarks can only go a little further in exposing these complexities.
The figure of the talib, or religious student, has been
a familiar one for centuries in the region of the Frontier,
and during the 1980s, talibs were involved in combat against
Soviet forces, often under the direction of mullahs affiliated
with the Harakat-e Inqilab-e Islami Afghanistan, a largely
Pushtun party led by Mawlawi Mohammad Nabi Mohammadi. The
Taliban movement, on the other hand, emerged as an organized
military force only in 1994, and with substantial backing
from the Pakistani Interior Minister, General Naseerullah
Babar. In securing a foothold in Afghanistan, the Taliban
were able to draw on massive disaffection in the Kandahar
area with the local Mujahideen rulers, who in the period following
the collapse of the communist regime in Kabul in April 1992
had not won distinction for either honesty or competence.
Pakistan played a key role in turning the Taliban into a functioning
military force through the provision of training, logistical
support, and equipment,
and this was one factor which enabled them to seize the western
city of Herat in September 1995, and then the ultimate prize,
Kabul, in September 1996. The scale of Pakistan's involvement
was documented in a June 2001 report by Human Rights Watch:
"Of all the foreign powers involved in efforts to sustain
and manipulate the ongoing fighting, Pakistan is distinguished
both by the sweep of its objectives and the scale of its efforts,
which include soliciting funding for the Taliban, bankrolling
Taliban operations, providing diplomatic support as the Taliban's
virtual emissaries abroad, arranging training for Taliban
fighters, recruiting skilled and unskilled manpower to serve
in Taliban armies, planning and directing offensives, providing
and facilitating shipments of ammunition and fuel, and on
several occasions apparently directly providing combat support."
The most revered figure in the Taliban movement is an ethnic
Pushtun named Mohammad Omar, identified by the traditional
title Amir al-Momineen ('Lord of the Believers'). His base
is Kandahar, also the base of the ruling shura (council) of
the Taliban movement, a body heavily dominated by Durrani
Pushtuns. Indeed, the entire movement is Pushtun-dominated,
with only a nominal presence from deracinated members of other
The Taliban leaders preach a fundamentalist form of Islam
derived from the Deobandi tradition which originated at the
famous Dar ul-Ulum Deoband in British India.
In the hands of at least some of the Afghan 'Deobandi' ulema,
however, the tradition was distinctively influenced by Pushtun
tribal values, and it again received a distinctive twist when
Afghan refugees were inducted into Deobandi madrassas in Pakistan
run by a Pakistani political party, the Jamiat-e Ulema-i Islam.
As a result, the 'Islam' of the Taliban is neither endorsed
by the contemporary Deobandi sheikhs,
nor a reflection of the pragmatic traditions of normal Afghan
village life, which few of the young talibs ever experienced.
This helps explain how these Taliban could engage in activities
which would be unthinkable in normal circumstances in Afghanistan,
such as the beating of women in the street; in this respect
there are few precedents in Afghanistan's history for such
a movement, and only a few elsewhere, including perhaps the
Boxer Movement in turn-of-the-century China, and later the
Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution, which reflected
a similar mixture of social alienation and ideologization.
While the Taliban have sometimes been labeled 'ultra-conservative',
there is a radical dimension to the enterprise of their more
religiously-inclined elements, since what they wish to 'conserve'
is more an imagined community, governed by the Shariah alone,
rather than a community with any actual referent in recent
Apart from its Kandahar-based leadership, and its youthful
shock-troops, the Taliban movement has drawn on three other
important elements. First, as it moved through Afghanistan,
it opened its doors to a wide range of ethnic Pushtuns who
'reflagged' themselves as Taliban, either for reasons of prudence,
as seems to have been the case with assorted local rulers
in the south of the country, or for reasons of ethnic solidarity,
as occurred when various Pushtun communities in the north,
descendants of settlers despatched to the north by Abdul Rahman
Khan in the late nineteenth century,
rallied to the Taliban during the 1997 and 1998 pushes into
northern Afghanistan. Second, it contains a significant number
of former members of the Khalq ('Masses') faction of the communist
People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan. These made their
way into the Taliban by a somewhat circuitous route: in March
1990, the Khalqi Defense Minister in the Soviet-backed regime
of President Najibullah, General Shahnawaz Tanai, had mounted
a factional revolt against the regime. While this enjoyed
the support of Pakistan's ISI, it failed, and Tanai and many
of his supporters fled to Pakistan. It was from this group
that the Taliban derived some of their key military capacities.
While a number of Khalqis were purged from Taliban ranks in
a 1998 crackdown, others remained. The presence of such figures
in the Taliban's ranks did much to fuel the suspicion that
they were agents of Pakistani interests. Third, it has made
use of Arab combatants from Saudi extremist Usama Bin Laden's
055 Brigade, who together with disaffected Muslim militants
from other parts of the world had gravitated to areas of Afghanistan
under Taliban control-a
development which the UN envoy to Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi,
in July 1999 described as an 'extremely dangerous' development.
While the exact process of Taliban decision making remains
quite extraordinarily mysterious, not least because leaders
such as Mullah Omar are uncomfortable with foreigners and
avoid meeting them, it is clear that the Taliban lack competent
bureaucratic support and sophisticated, highly-educated cadres.
As a result, they have little understanding of the evolved
practices of modern diplomacy; virtually no comprehension
of the politics of states outside the Muslim world; and a
limited capacity to develop and maintain a consistent stance
when dealing with their interlocutors, something which prompted
one observer to compare negotiating with the Taliban to 'grasping
doubts that in the crisis of September 2001 they have had
much inkling of what could befall them. The Taliban have not
produced any comprehensive foreign policy manifesto; and foreign
policy attitudes and initiatives are often to be detected
only from radio broadcasts, or from letters sent to international
agencies such as the UN. To speak of a Taliban 'foreign policy
establishment' would imply an absurdly greater degree of organizational
coherence than the movement manifests. Nonetheless, a number
of individuals have played a role in articulating what might
broadly be regarded as 'foreign policy concerns'. Mullah Omar
has on occasion expressed views on foreign policy issues;
various officials held the position of 'Acting Foreign Minister',
notably Mullah Mohammad Ghaus and Mullah Haji Mohammad Hassan;
and eventually Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil was appointed 'Foreign
Minister' and represented a point of contact for foreign officials
visiting Afghanistan, although it rapidly became clear that
he lacked any power of his own. In addition, foreign policy
statements were on occasion issued by those Taliban despatched
to New York to seek the Afghanistan seat in the UN General
Assembly, a prize which eluded them, and by Taliban-appointed
Ambassadors in Pakistan, one of only three statesfrom which
the Taliban received diplomatic recognition. 
The first broad foreign policy objective of the Taliban
was to win acceptance as a government. Yet the issue of recognition
proved one of the most frustrating with which the Taliban
had to cope.In order to explain the nature of the Taliban's
problem, it is necessary to go into rather more detail about
the nature of recognition, and about the events which accompanied
the Taliban's occupation of Kabul.
Recognition in international law involves acceptance by
a state that the recognized body possesses international legal
personality and the rights and privileges which flow from
it, or is the exclusive representative of a body with international
legal personality. The decision to grant or not to grant recognition
is a political decision within the sovereign discretion of
individual states. Recognition in principle can be accorded
to either states or governments.
As to the former, it need only be noted that the state of
Afghanistan has been recognized by a wide number of states,
including all permanent members of the UN Security Council,
for many years. However, where political power has fragmented
to the extent as has occurred in Afghanistan in recent years,
there may well be more than one group claiming to be the government.
Deciding how best to press such claims is a serious foreign
policy matter for the claimants. Deciding how to respond to
such claims is a serious foreign policy matter for the governments
to which they are made. A distinct, if at some levels similar,
issue arises when more than one 'government' sends a delegation
to represent a single state in an international organization
such as the UN. Here, the problem is one of how an organization
of states can devise a collective response to such a dilemma.
The UN General Assembly responds by appointing a Credentials
Committee to make recommendations to the General Assembly
about credentials offered by the various delegations of member
The Taliban, upon taking Kabul, immediately demanded both
recognition from other states as the government of Afghanistan,
and Afghanistan's seat in the General Assembly. However, they
received neither. As far as recognition was concerned, the
explanation was largely political. On the night the Taliban
took Kabul, 26-27 September 1996, the former communist president
Najibullah was dragged from UN premises (in which he had been
living since April 1992) and murdered; his body was hung from
a pylon in Ariana Square. This gruesome spectacle attracted
a large contingent of international media representatives,
who were then in place to report the imposition of harsh restrictions
on the population of Kabul.
The reactions in Western states to these reports were extremely
adverse, both at mass and elite levels. As a result, states
such as the USA, France, the United Kingdom, and Australia
in which the Rabbani Government had diplomatic or consular
agents opted in the first instance to leave the status quo
in place. There was a sound legal basis for this: as Lauterpacht
observed of revolutionary forces, 'So long as the revolution
has not been fully successful, and so long as the lawful government,
however adversely affected by the fortunes of the civil war,
remains within national territory and asserts its authority,
it is presumed to represent the State as a whole'. 
The Taliban faced similar problems at the UN. The UN General
Assembly on 14 December 1950 adopted Resolution 396(V), which
provided that 'wherever more than one authority claims to
be the government entitled to represent a Member State in
the United Nations and this question becomes the subject of
controversy in the United Nations, the question should be
considered in the light of the Purposes and Principles of
the Charter and the circumstances of each case'. This has
not prevented disputes over credentials in the intervening
period, but it worked to the disadvantage of the Taliban,
whose invasion of UN premises in Kabul hardly bespoke a firm
commitment to the purposes and principles of the Charter,
and whose treatment of women shocked many member states. But
two other factors worked to the disadvantage of the Taliban.
First, as the authors of the main commentary on the UN Charter
have observed, in practice a government will be regarded by
the General Assembly 'as being authorized to represent a member
state as long as it has not been replaced by a rival claimant
who has established effective control over the state independently
of the support of a foreign power'.
The widespread suspicion that Pakistan had backed the Taliban
in its campaign to overthrow the Rabbani Government seems
to have brought this latter qualification into play in the
minds of at least some of the members of the Credentials Committee
in 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2000, since the Committee on
each occasion opted to preserve the status quo. Pakistan's
persistent attempts to induce the UN to adopt a 'vacant seat'
formula over Afghanistan-something
for which Pakistan had successfully pushed during the 1996
Jakarta meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference
(OIC)-failed ignominiously. Second, the Taliban's nominees
charged with seeking the Afghanistan seat at the UN were no
match as diplomats for the Rabbani Government's representative,
Dr Ravan Farhadi, a French-trained scholar who during the
rule of King Zahir had served as Head of the UN and International
Conferences Division of the Foreign Ministry, Counselor in
the Afghan Embassy in Washington, Secretary to the Cabinet,
and Afghan Ambassador to France.
The second broad foreign policy objective of the Taliban
was to obtain revenue from international sources. Afghanistan
before the 1978 communist coup had many of the characteristics
of a rentier state: at the time of the coup, over a third
of total state expenditure was financed by foreign aid.
By the time the Taliban took Kabul, years of disorder had
destroyed any central state capacity to raise taxes in an
orderly fashion. Yet with their legitimacy as rulers still
contested in significant parts of the country, monies could
play a valuable role in buying the prudential support of strategically-placed
local power holders. This made obtaining external financial
support a major aim of the regime. 'Saudi Arabia', Rashid
has argued of the period before the Taliban takeover of Kabul,
'was to become the principal financial backer of the Taliban'.
However, the Taliban-perhaps recalling how fickle had been
the support of external backers for the Mujahideen at different
times-sought to diversify their income sources. Their efforts
had mixed results at best. Three particular spheres of activity
The first related to the cultivation of international energy
In October 1995, the US corporation UNOCAL and the Saudi corporation
Delta Oil signed a memorandum of intent with the government
of Turkmenistan, which anticipated the construction of a gas
pipeline through Afghanistan to Pakistan. When the Taliban
took Kabul, a UNOCAL Vice-President, Chris Taggart, reportedly
termed it a 'positive development'.
However, for both UNOCAL and the Taliban, the relationship
proved frustrating. For the Taliban, the relationship with
UNOCAL delivered neither revenue nor wider American support.
Their expectations were extremely unrealistic: according to
Rashid, they expected 'the company which wins the contract
to provide electricity, gas, telephones, roads-in fact, virtually
a new infrastructure for a destroyed country'.
From UNOCAL's point of view, the Taliban proved unable to
deliver the level of security which would be required to permit
such a project to go ahead-and given the vulnerability not
only of the pipeline itself but also the expatriate staff
who would inevitably be involved in its construction, that
level of security is extremely high. As a result, according
to another UNOCAL Vice-President, Marty Miller, 'lenders have
said the project at this moment is just not financeable',
and in August 1998, the company suspended its involvement
in the project following US Tomahawk cruise missile strikes
against alleged terrorist training camps operated in eastern
Afghanistan by Usama Bin Laden.
In the face of these problems, the Taliban sought to maintain
lines of communication with one of UNOCAL's competitors, the
Argentinian company Bridas, but ultimately that avenue proved
unrewarding as well and, the Taliban's hopes of securing a
free revenue stream through bargaining with major multinational
consortia simply slipped away. 
The second related to the exploitation of 'transit trade'
and other smuggling between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Under
the Afghan Transit Trade Agreement of 1965, certain goods
can be imported into Afghanistan through Pakistan, free of
Pakistani customs duties. It is clear that a significant proportion
of the goods thus imported are then smuggled into Pakistan,
where they are sold in smugglers' markets. In recent years,
this trade has been augmented by the transportation into Pakistan
of goods imported into Taliban-controlled areas of Afghanistan
from Dubai and other trading ports in the Persian Gulf. The
value of this trade has been estimated in a World Bank study
at $2.5 billion, and the profit to the Taliban may be as high
as $75 million, although it is unlikely that it is pooled
in such a way as to permit efficient budgeting.
The Pakistani state is a major loser from this trade, since
it is thereby deprived of the revenues from indirect taxation
which would otherwise accrue to it, and its general tolerance
of the loss is a clear indicator of the extent to which powerful
groups in Pakistan had come to value the goal of sustaining
the Taliban regime above the goal of putting Pakistan's own
economic house in order-something which should be borne in
mind by international financial institutions from which Pakistan
seeks lines of credit.
The third relates to the raising of revenues from opium,
of which Afghanistan under the Taliban became the world's
Drug trafficking has received considerable attention in recent
years as a 'non-traditional' security issue,
and weighs heavily in the thinking of the US Administration.
Yet opium also represents a revenue source of some potential
for power holders in a debilitated territory such as Afghanistan.
The challenge for the Taliban therefore was to extract revenue
from this source without so alienating foreign governments
that the costs of the undertaking outweighed the benefits.
Here again, the Taliban were not especially successful. The
involvement of the Taliban in the drug trade was plain almost
from the outset of their rule. In a 1996 interview, Mullah
Omar admitted that the Taliban received revenue from a tax
on opium.=, and
the Afghanistan Annual Opium Poppy Survey 1998 published by
the United Nations International Drug Control Programme (UNDCP)
found that the 'provinces under the control of the Taliban,
at the time of the Survey, account for approximately 96% of
Afghanistan's total opium cultivation'.
The position of the Taliban at that time was that it was 'difficult
to encourage farmers to produce other cash crops',
and there was almost certainly some truth in this claim. However,
eyewitness testimony pointed to Taliban involvement not only
in compelling farmers to grow opium, but in distributing fertilizer
for the crops.
Given the loose structure of the movement, this could well
have reflected simply the greed of local Taliban, but it was
not read in this way: the US State Department concluded that
there was 'evidence that the Taliban, which control much of
Afghanistan, have made a policy decision to take advantage
of narcotics trafficking and production in order to put pressure
on the west and other consuming nations'.
In 1999, according to a UN report, "the production of
opium increased dramatically to 4,600 tonnes, almost twice
the average production of the previous four years."
However, on February 27, 2000, doubtless with an eye to their
international standing, the Taliban ordered a total ban on
cultivation of the poppy; the output for 2000 fell to 3,300
tonnes, and further dramatic falls were detected in early
2001. However, the ban was bitterly resented by farmers, for
whom no alternative income sources were provided, and won
the Taliban surprisingly little kudos, in part because of
the suspicion that the ban was driven by the desire not to
add to what was already a large stockpile, and that output
falls owed much to the drought by which Afghanistan had been
Nonetheless, with the exception of the Taliban's hospitality
to Usama Bin Laden, which catastrophically prejudiced any
prospect of their developing amicable relations with the United
States, the main consideration which thwarted the efforts
of the Taliban to secure international recognition and legitimacy
was their treatment of women. The issue is an extremely important
one, not simply because women are a particularly vulnerable
and long-suffering component of the Afghan population, but
also because the mobilization of groups in the international
community in defense of Afghan women points to ways in which
the sovereignty claims of putative rulers of states may increasingly
be subordinated to evolving international norms. At the same
time, it points to the enormous tension which can arise between
these norms, and the norms defended by groups for whom secular
rules must be subordinate to those which they see as divinely-ordained.
It is this tension which is at the heart of the Taliban's
growing international isolation.
The Taliban could charitably be described as the least feminist
group in the world. This became clear once they reached Kabul,
although the policies which they sought to impose in Kabul
differed little from those which they had forcibly implemented
in Kandahar from late 1994 and Herat from September 1995.
In rural areas, in which the Taliban found themselves in potential
competition with an existing tribal authority structure, they
had far less scope to impose their puritanical visions, and
as a result, there are areas nominally under Taliban control
in which girls' schools continue to function.
In cities, there were far fewer centers of countervailing
power, and the Taliban religious police, known as the Department
for the Promotion of Virtue and Suppression of Vice (Amr bil-Maroof
wa Nahi An il-Munkir), had a free hand. That hand was directed
against women, with a fierce paternalism of which Dostoevsky's
Grand Inquisitor would have been proud. Decrees issued by
this department forbade women to travel unaccompanied by a
close male relative (mahram) or without being swathed in a
stifling head-to-toe garment known as a burqa.
These rules were enforced in the days following the Taliban
arrival in Kabul by teams of young Taliban who beat women
with rubber hoses in front of foreign journalists. In addition,
girls' schools in Kabul were closed, women were excluded from
most areas of the workforce and from Kabul University, and-during
a particularly grim period in late 1997-women were denied
access to emergency hospital care, with fatal results: according
to the US State Department, a non-governmental organization
in October 1997 'reported that a female burn victim had died
after Taliban authorities would not allow her to be treated
by a male doctor'.
Furthermore, reports began to appear of young women being
forced to marry young Taliban against their will.
The topic of gender relations in Afghanistan is complex
and difficult, since social roles for some but not all Afghan
women changed significantly as a result of wider processes
of social development in urban areas, and particularly Kabul,
over the last four decades.
From 1959 onwards, women in Kabul had opportunities to access
higher education and employment on a scale which earlier would
have been unthinkable.
Following the 1978 communist coup, and with the backing of
coercive threats, the new regime sought to extend its ideology
of gender roles into unreceptive rural areas. The results
were catastrophic: the regime not only faced intense opposition
to its policies from affronted rural dwellers, but the entire
exercise set back the cause of laudable objectives such as
female literacy by linking them, in the minds of conservative
village clergy, with atheism and propaganda.
Furthermore, with the flight of millions of Afghan refugees
to Pakistan, the resulting disempowerment of Afghan males
in many cases prompted an obsessive preoccupation on their
part with the protection of 'female honor', one of the few
exercises on which they could still embark with much hope
As a result of these experiences, the social roles of women
became increasingly salient benchmarks for distinguishing
different types of sociopolitical order.
It was in this context that women's rights became a principal
battleground between the Taliban and the international community.
The Taliban viewed their treatment of women in a very different
way from outside observers. They rightly pointed to the grim
experience of Afghan women during the brutal division of Kabul
between warring militias from mid-1992 to March 1995,
and credited themselves with eliminating such insecurity-although
in late March 1998, a Voice of America correspondent laconically
reported that while a Taliban spokesman had said in a statement
that there was 'complete peace and security' in the provinces
controlled by the Taliban, 'at the same time, he told reporters
that a lack of adequate security is another serious problem
in providing education to female students'.
Earlier, the Chair of the Taliban's 'Caretaker Council' in
Kabul, Mullah Mohammad Rabbani, had expressed himself 'perplexed
at the silence of the western media regarding the tragedies
and miseries that prevailed when previous governments were
in power in Afghanistan', and went on to blame the bad publicity
received by the Taliban on 'world Zionism fighting Islam'.
Raising an argument for cultural relativism, another Taliban
spokesman complained that 'in the United States, they want
to impose their American culture on us'.
This remark obliquely reflected the way in which the Taliban
had become trapped in a series of increasingly acrimonious
exchanges with prominent Western women. On 29 September 1997,
the European Union Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs,
Emma Bonino, was detained by the Taliban during a visit to
what had been designated by the Taliban as a women's hospital.
This represented more the confusion and incoherence of the
Taliban than a deliberate and planned attempt to intimidate
an international official, but it won the Taliban quite devastating
media coverage (not least because Bonino was accompanied by
the prominent correspondent Christiane Amanpour 
) and it prompted the German Foreign Minister to describe
the Taliban justification for the detentions as 'unbelievable
and shameful in every respect'.
The result was to turn Commissioner Bonino into a frontline
critic of the Taliban: the European Parliament adopted 'Flowers
for the Women of Kabul' as slogan for the following International
Women's Day, 8 March 1998. The plight of Kabuli women then
figured prominently in demonstrations and activities around
the world, prompting the Taliban-controlled Radio Voice of
Shariah to describe International Women's Day as a 'conspiracy'
by 'the infidels of the world under the leadership of Emma
Bonino' and to complain of 'the provocation which has been
launched by Christendom against the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan'.
Even more worrying for the Taliban than the opposition of
a prominent European such as Bonino was US Secretary of State
Albright's November 1997 description of Taliban policies towards
women as 'despicable',
an observation which interestingly provoked from the Taliban
'Foreign Ministry' a much less splenetic response than that
encountered by Bonino, namely the claim that Dr. Albright's
comments were based on 'her incorrect knowledge of reality'.
Whether the forthright statements by Bonino and Albright represented
the best way to prompt Taliban concessions on the issue of
women's rights was not the point. Rather, what these episodes
demonstrated was the way in which Taliban 'foreign policy'
had become the victim of the Taliban's pursuit of a domestic
agenda out of step with much of the wider world.
The Taliban came on the world scene at the wrong time for
their own good. In the early 1980s, Afghan groups with similar
attitudes to women-for example, the Hezb-e Islami of Gulbuddin
Hekmatyar-were funded with few qualms by the US Administration.
But by the mid-1990s, the global strategic situation was radically
different as a result of the collapse of the USSR, and new
agendas of social awareness were being pressed with increasing
vigor. The UN International Women's Conference in Beijing
in September 1995 confirmed an agenda radically at odds with
that of the Taliban, and a dense network of women's groups
had formed to give effect to that agenda. Indeed, the failure
of the Taliban to secure recognition or Afghanistan's General
Assembly seat reflected in part the effective lobbying of
those groups (which also put pressure on UNOCAL to distance
itself from the Taliban). The Feminist Majority Foundation
under Eleanor Smeal took a strong lead in such action, with
support from American celebrities such as Mavis Leno and Lionel
their position was bolstered by the release in August 1998
of a damning and widely-publicized report from the Boston-based
Physicians for Human Rights entitled The Taliban's War on
these groups, the response of their own governments to the
Taliban's demands for acceptance became an important symbol
of those governments' seriousness about gender issues and
(in contrast to what might have been the case had the rulers
of a resource-rich state such as Saudi Arabia been under fire)
there were no compelling reasons for the governments to ignore
this domestic pressure.
However, the tension between the Taliban and the wider world
over the gender issue reflected a deeper tension-between a
vision of the world as governed by rules of an evolving international
society, and a vision of the world as ruled by the word of
God. For the Taliban's Amir al-Momineen, this was the key
distinction. In a statement in late December 1997, Mullah
Omar claimed that the United Nations had 'fallen under the
influence of imperialist powers and under the pretext of human
rights has misled Moslems from the path of righteousness'.
Increased rights for women would lead to adultery and herald
'the destruction of Islam'. 'We do not', Mullah Omar went
on, 'accept something which somebody imposes on us under the
name of human rights which is contrary to the holy Koranic
law'. The holy Koran, he concluded 'cannot adjust itself to
other people's requirements; people should adjust themselves
to the requirements of the holy Koran'.
This neatly encapsulated the Taliban's philosophy of international
relations: an uncompromising one, which repudiated international
law, international opinion, and international organization
if they appeared in any way to conflict with the Taliban's
idiosyncratic interpretation of what holy Koranic law might
As a result, the UN as an organization found the Taliban
extraordinarily difficult to handle. Its Charter and its practices
carried no particular weight with them, as the murder of Najibullah
made clear. Yet given how few states retained a diplomatic
presence in Kabul, the UN was the agency which carried the
burden of giving voice to international law and international
opinion, even as-in another guise-it sought to coordinate
the delivery of humanitarian assistance to Afghans living
in Taliban-controlled areas. The 'United Nations' is really
a family of loosely-connected and uncoordinated organizations,
with their own interests, tactics, and strategies. The signals
which the Taliban received from this labyrinth were confusing,
and evoked a confused response. While agencies such as UNDCP
sought to make the Kandahar leadership partners in their anti-narcotics
programs, the General Assembly refused to seat the Taliban.
While UN staffers in Pakistan made their way to the Taliban-controlled
Afghan Embassy in order to obtain visas to enter the country,
the Director-General of UNESCO called the Taliban 'madmen'
and 'barbarians who interpret the Koran as they see fit'.
It is perhaps not surprising that the cynicism of UN officials
about the Taliban was matched by the cynicism of the Taliban
about the UN. But given the tunnel vision of the Taliban,
it is doubtful whether anything but wholesale support for
the Taliban's policies and aims would have satisfied the Kandahar
The result was a growing contempt for the UN. On the one
hand, this took the form of a willingness to exploit the goodwill
of the UN for military purposes. Thus, in March 1998, the
Head of the World Food Programme office in Herat claimed that
the Taliban had been using displaced persons' camps in the
Herat area 'as lures for fresh troops to join the front line',
the basic message to male breadwinners being 'move your family
down to the camp, and we'll make sure they get well fed, and
you'll fight for us'.
On the other hand, it appeared in the form of a disdain for
UN actions from which the Taliban could not benefit. This
was clearly manifested in the Taliban blockade to prevent
food supplies reaching the central Hazarajat region, a blockade
which was implemented in the face of high-level pleas from
the UN that it not go ahead, and which the Taliban enforced
by bombing Bamian airport on 1 January 1998 when a clearly-identified
UN plane was on the runway. Faced with a series of Taliban
provocations, culminating in an assault on a UN staffer by
the Taliban Governor of Kandahar Mullah Mohammad Hassan,
on 23 March 1998 the UN ordered the withdrawal of its expatriate
staff in Kandahar and suspended its humanitarian activities
in the south of the country.
Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN Under Secretary-General
for Special Assignments, was in Pakistan at the time of the
withdrawal, and sent a very firm message: if the UN could
not operate as it did in all other member states, 'we should
pack up and go'. He added that the 'international community
has a standard and if you want to be a member of the club
you have to abide by the rules'.
In the same vein, the UN Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian
Affairs, Sergio Vieira de Mello, demanded 'written assurances
that international humanitarian law and principles will be
Some such written assurances were given in a Memorandum of
Understanding signed in Kabul on 13 May 1998 by the Taliban
'Planning Minister', Qari Deen Mohammad, and the UN Deputy
Emergency Relief Coordinator, Martin Griffiths.
In other respects, however, the document proved a disaster
for the UN, since Article 13, in a section entitled 'Access
to Health and Education' stated that 'women's access to health
and education will need to be gradual'. This prompted a scathing
attack from the Executive Director of Physicians for Human
Rights, Leonard S. Rubinstein, who stated that the UN 'endorsement
of Taliban restrictions on women's basic rights to education
and health care is a betrayal of international human rights
standards and of the female population of Afghanistan'.
This specific issue took a back seat when the August 1998
US Tomahawk cruise missile strikes prompted a UN withdrawal
from Afghanistan, in the midst of which a Military Adviser
to the UN Special Mission to Afghanistan (UNSMA), Lieutenant-Colonel
Carmine Calo of Italy, was murdered in Kabul. And when the
Taliban launched a further major offensive against their opponents
in late July 1999, barely a week after a declaration issued
at UN-sponsored talks in Tashkent, attended by Taliban representatives,
had called for peaceful political negotiations in order to
establish a broad-based, multiethnic and fully representative
government, relations between the Taliban and the UN hit a
The Taliban's relations with non-governmental organisations
(NGOs) proved equally tense, and the images of the Taliban
conveyed to the wider world through NGO channels were on the
whole extremely adverse. While some NGOs welcomed the security
which the Taliban brought, and found them less corrupt than
some other groups with which they had had to deal,
for others they were at best meddlesome and obstreperous.
The issue of gender again proved extraordinarily sensitive,
and those bodies which coped most effectively with the Taliban
were those engaged in 'gender-neutral' work such as mine action,
or those such as the International Committee of the Red Cross
that were not under donor pressure to take a strongly political
stand in response to Taliban policy. Tensions finally came
to a head on 14 July 1998, when the Taliban ordered international
NGOs in Kabul to relocate to the ruined campus of the Kabul
Polytechnic, which they were invited also to repair. This
was understandably interpreted as a covert expulsion order,
and many such NGOs opted instead to quit the capital. The
Taliban responded by seizing NGO property, notably two vehicles
donated to a medical charity by the Princess Diana Fund, vehicles
which days later a correspondent reported 'now ferry around
turbaned and gun-toting passengers in comfort through the
bumpy and potholed streets of Kabul'.
While some international NGOs did shift to the Polytechnic,
they were displaced by the Taliban in mid-1999 'after more
than 800 troops occupied the compound for a month before moving
to the front'.
After the Tomahawk cruise missile strikes, the activities
of many NGOs were further limited by restrictions imposed
by donor governments; one Western government even warned that
it would suspend all funding to any Pakistan-based NGO whose
expatriate staff set foot in Afghanistan. Despite a Taliban
decree designed to guarantee the safety of NGO staff,
a fundamental tension between the Taliban and NGOs persisted,
for while the Taliban welcomed them as assistants, they could
not abide them as witnesses. Even before the expulsion of
all expatriate aid workers from Afghanistan in the wake of
the September 11, 2001 terrorist strikes, the position of
international NGOs was approaching a crisis point following
the August 2001 arrest of German, U.S., and Australian employees
of Shelter Now International (SNI),
whom the Taliban accused of Christian proselytization. To
experienced observers, this reflected less a concern with
Christians per se than a desire to use an anti-Christian campaign
as a way of energising Pakistani madrassa students, and as
a pretext for asserting power over groups with some degree
of autonomy. As so often in the past, the aid community found
itself caught between a rock and a hard place.
The tensions between the Taliban and the UN also reflected
tensions between the Taliban and a number of powerful UN members.
In the following paragraphs, I explore the dimensions of Taliban
relations with three of the more important-Pakistan, Iran
and the United States-since it is these three states which
by virtue of their proximity or power are central to the prospects
for any progress towards a settlement of the Afghan problem.
I also make some brief comments about Taliban attitudes to
Saudi Arabia, Russia, and India.
Pakistan has always been the state closest to the Taliban,
and there is much truth in the claim that without substantial
Pakistani support, the Taliban would long ago have faced enormous
problems in holding their positions in the parts of Afghanistan
which they dominated. It is no exaggeration to say that despite
the expansion of Taliban power reflected a 'creeping invasion'
of Afghanistan by its neighbor: for example, in mid-1999,
Ahmed Rashid reported that in preparation for the Taliban's
summer offensive, 'Transport planes from Pakistan fly military
supplies at night to the ramshackle Kabul airport'.
To that extent, Pakistan has rightly been viewed as the state
which it is vital to pressure if the Taliban are to be induced
to take any interest in the concerns of the international
community, and the military coup by General Pervez Musharraf
on October 12, 1999, in no way altered this fundamental reality
Yet the relationship between Pakistan and the Taliban is not
one of direct control, for two reasons. First, the loose structure
of the Taliban movement, based on personalistic ties rather
than structured hierarchy, makes it virtually impossible to
control in any carefully-calibrated way. This became very
clear in May 1997 when the Taliban incursion into northern
Afghanistan, manifestly orchestrated by Pakistan, failed dramatically
through a lack of effective control over trigger-happy foot
Second, the Taliban have proved adept at building ties to
different lobbies in Pakistan as a way of protecting themselves
from disaffection on the part of any single lobby.
In supporting a revivalist Sunni Pushtun movement such as
the Taliban, Pakistani agencies pursued a very high-risk strategy,
the consequences of which were reflected in the escalation
more generally of militant religious activity in Pakistan.
And with the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center,
swiftly blamed on groups which had flourished under Taliban
protection, President Musharraf found himself in the desperate
position of having to choose whether to oppose the heated
radicalism of Pakistan's religious extremists, or the immeasurable
wrath of the United States.Having sown the wind, Pakistan
was left to reap the whirlwind.
Militant anti-Shiism lay at the core of the Taliban's deeply-troubled
relations with Iran. This militancy derives in part from the
nature of the education available in Deobandi madrassas, but
in Afghanistan it is reinforced by patterns of hostility to
the ethnic group of which a large number of Shia are members,
namely the Hazaras. The Hazaras have a distinctly Central
Asian phenotype, and have a long experience of social marginalization.
These experiences have helped shape the character of Shiite
Since the Iranian population is overwhelmingly Shiite and
the Iranian political system is dominated by Shiite ulema,
it is hardly surprising that the Taliban's hostility to Shiism
prompted a strong Iranian response, in the form of military
and moral support for the Taliban's armed opponents, most
importantly but by no means exclusively the Shiite Hezb-e
Wahdat. Iran delighted in highlighting some of the more eccentric
aspects of Taliban behavior, not least because on issues such
as female access to education and employment, Iran appeared
moderate, even progressive, in contrast to their Kandahari
neighbors. One senior Iranian cleric described Taliban policies
A Taliban spokesman, in turn, described Iran as 'an expansionist
state which wants to establish "Greater Iran" from
the Gulf in the south to the Amu [Oxus] river in the north
and the Indus river to the east'.
In June 1997, relations took a nosedive when the Taliban ordered
the closure of the Iranian Embassy in Kabul, and they reached
their nadir in August 1998 when the Taliban seized the northern
city of Mazar-e Sharif, killed eight staff of the Iranian
Consulate, and embarked on an orgy of killing in which perhaps
2,500 Shia perished in just three days.
This caused outrage in Iran, and brought Iran and the Taliban
to the brink of war,
which only dexterous diplomacy by UN Envoy Brahimi managed
to avert. Iran's hostility to the Taliban is muted only by
the reluctance of at least some within the Iranian leadership
to see an anti-Taliban campaign provide a stepping-stone for
the revival of American influence in West Asia.
When the Taliban took Kabul, they had high hopes of support
In October 1995, the U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan reportedly
accompanied General Naseerullah Babar in a convoy of trucks
which entered Afghan territory from Quetta, a move which could
only have been interpreted as a calculated insult to the Rabbani
Staff of the US Embassy in Pakistan had made no secret of
their animosity towards the Taliban's predecessors, and the
US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, Robin Raphel,
had just a month earlier demanded that Iran 'should stop supplying
a fatal subordination of foreign policy to commercial interests,
the US Administration was also sympathetic to UNOCAL's ambitions
for the region.
The State Department's Acting Spokesman, Glyn Davies, remarked
that 'the United States finds nothing objectionable in the
policy statements of the new government, including its move
to impose Islamic law'.
An Afghan-American commentator with the RAND Corporation who
had served in the upper echelons of the State Department and
the Department of Defense even went into print to argue that
it was time for the United States to reengage in Afghanistan,
maintaining that 'the departure of Osama Bin Laden, the Saudi
financier of various anti-U.S. terrorist groups, from Afghanistan
indicates some common interest between the United States and
the Taliban'. 
However, disappointment set in rapidly on both sides. As noted
earlier, the Taliban's policies towards women made them political
pariahs, and by 1998 even won them criticism from First Lady
Hillary Rodham Clinton. Furthermore, if more explicit US interests
in Afghanistan could be summed up in terms of 'drugs and thugs'-in
other words, the flourishing of opium crops and networks of
terrorists from the Arab world-it
rapidly emerged that firm Taliban action could be expected
on neither front. It soon became clear that Bin Laden had
not left Afghanistan; on the contrary, he had been a major
financier of the Taliban push to Kabul.
The bomb blasts on 7 August 1998 which devastated the US Embassies
in Kenya and Tanzania were blamed by US intelligence sources
on Bin Laden, prompting the Tomahawk missile strikes on his
training camps in Afghanistan two weeks later. This led to
an upsurge of anti-American sentiment on the part of the Taliban
and their Pakistani backers from the Jamiat-e Ulema-i Islam,
and ultimately the promulgation by President Clinton on 6
July 1999 of an Executive Order freezing all Taliban assets
in the USA and banning commercial and financial ties between
the Taliban and the US.
As relations cooled with the Taliban, Washington began to
flirt with the idea that the former Afghan monarch Zahir Shah
could play a role in putting together an alternative, something
which prompted the then Pakistani Foreign Minister-an ardent
Taliban supporter-to remark in March 1998 during a Tokyo press
conference that the Americans were 'thinking of putting puppets
in Afghanistan', those puppets being 'people who hover around
in Pakistan from one cocktail party to the other'.
It was always wishful thinking on the part of both naive Taliban
and naive Americans to expect that friendly relations could
develop between leaderships with such radically different
Weltanschauungen, and even before the September terrorist
attacks, a posture of much more active U.S. opposition to
the Taliban was ironically canvassed by the very analyst who
in 1996 had argued for reengagement.
The US chose in part to pursue such an approach through the
UN Security Council, which by Resolution 1267 imposed Chapter
VII sanctions against the Taliban from November 14, 1999,
sanctions which were subsequently tightened by Resolution
1333 of 19 December 2000. 
The attitudes of the Taliban to Saudi Arabia, Russia, and
India, have been somewhat less complicated than their attitudes
to Pakistan, Iran and the United States. Saudi Arabia as a
financial backer was initially accorded great respect, although
the relationship was not sufficiently intimate as to prompt
the Taliban to return Osama Bin Laden to the Saudi government
following the August 1998 bomb blasts, something which led
the Saudis unilaterally to freeze their official relations
with the Taliban. Russia, on the other hand, was routinely
denounced in Taliban statements, first because Russia would
clearly prefer that the Taliban's opponents triumph in Afghanistan,
but second because the Taliban, and a large number of ordinary
Afghans, clearly recalled and rightly deplored the dreadful
damage their country suffered at the hands of Soviet troops
and Soviet politicians,
some of whom have made careers in the politics of post-communist
Russia. Contrary to the perception of many Afghans, the Russian
Federation is in important ways a dramatically different state
from the old USSR,
but it is no surprise that in Afghanistan, painful memories
die hard. India too was denounced by the Taliban, and the
electoral successes of the Bharatiya Janata Party hardly pointed
to any burgeoning community of interest between Afghanistan
and India. The Taliban earned Indian ire over their support
for Kashmiri groups such as Harkat al-Mujahideen, but the
most serious rift surrounded the December 1999 hijacking to
Kandahar of Indian Airlines Flight 814 during its scheduled
trip from Katmandu to Delhi. The Taliban followed a course
of action which appeared to serve the interests of the hijackers,
and the episode ended with the hijackers escaping, and India
being forced to release a significant Kashmiri militant.
After this, there was little hope that the Taliban could ever
rebuild a relationship with New Delhi.
For the people of Afghanistan, the September 2001 crisis
began not with the attacks on the World Trade Center and the
Pentagon, but two days earlier. On the afternoon of Sunday
September 9, two Moroccan journalists carrying Belgian passports
detonated a bomb hidden in a video camera, and fatally wounded
the military leader of the anti-Taliban forces, the renowned
Ahmad Shah Massoud. This type of suicide attack had no precedent
in Afghan circles: rather, it bore the hallmarks of the type
of activities with which Usama Bin Laden had long been associated.
Given that it is almost inconceivable that the Taliban leadership
would not have been forewarned of an imminent Bin Laden attempt
on the life of their main opponent, the attack highlighted
a radicalization within the Taliban which had for some years
been increasingly palpable.
The most important pointer to the radicalisation of the
Taliban came in July 1999 with the assassination in Quetta
of Abdul Ahad Karzai, a Popalzai tribal leader from Afghanistan,
just six days after Washington's unilateral sanctions against
the Taliban were imposed. The Karzai family was one of the
most prominent Pushtun families of more moderate, pro-Zahir
Shah stripe who had linked up with the Taliban movement. These
moderate Pushtuns were of some use in generating Washington's
initial acceptance of the Taliban, but given that the Taliban's
Pakistani backers had no desire to revive Afghanistan's ancien
régime (which they associated with the Pushtunistan
dispute), in the long run they were entirely expendable. The
Karzai assassination created a significant rift within the
Taliban. This did not affect its position in the tribal areas
of Afghanistan, where Taliban power was exercised sporadically
rather than ubiquitously, but it altered the pattern of advice
coming to Mullah Omar. The original Taliban shura ceased to
function, and moderate voices became less and less audible.
Advice to the Taliban supreme leader thereafter was dominated
by elderly Kandahari judges, radical Deobandi circles, ISI
officers, and Bin Laden and his associates. This development
provided some of the context for the Taliban's spectacular
destruction in February 2001 of two of Afghanistan's greatest
treasures, the giant Buddhas of Bamiyan, which were dynamited
in the face of a global outcry.
When the spotlight of blame finally settled on the Taliban
after the atrocities of September 11, 2001, they found themselves
with scarcely a friend in the world, and for this they had
no one but themselves to blame.
Afghanistan stands at an utterly decisive moment in its
modern history. The decisions to be made by the Bush Administration
and its allies in the global struggle against terrorism will
determine whether Afghanistan and its region will at last
be stabilised, or Southwest Asia will slide into a ruinous
state of near-anarchy in which countless innocent people,
Americans included, will be engulfed. If the US Administration
opts for an indiscriminate use of force against targets in
Afghanistan, and no more than a "short, sharp" campaign
to strike at Usama Bin Laden and his associates, then the
latter scenario will most likely eventuate. There will be
no winners. There is, however, a realistic alternative. It
has six elements.
First, the people of Afghanistan must be partners in any
operation to remove terrorist groups and the circles which
nurture them. Across ethnic and sectarian boundaries, there
is an overwhelming desire for peace and reconstruction-not
the peace of a prison, but a real peace in which the rights
of ordinary people are respected, the young can be educated,
and Afghans can observe the tenets of their Islamic faith.
Any intervention in Afghanistan should not be a punitive venture,
but a rescue mission. This is how many Afghans will see it
if it is properly executed: Zahir Shah, in an interview with
the BBC, remarked that "The intervention of foreign troops
in any country is something that's not easy to accept. But
if it's an intervention such as we witnessed in Europe with
the Second World War when the British, the American and the
Canadians came down in France to get rid of the Nazis, this
is different." 
Second, there must be a recognition of how profound and
immediate is the emergency by which ordinary Afghans are faced.
Two decades of warfare, combined with repression and drought,
have created a mood of utter despair, and a looming humanitarian
catastrophe. An intervention force in Afghanistan is likely
to be besieged by almost unimaginable numbers of desperate
people looking to it to provide humanitarian relief. If plans
are not made to meet their needs, the political and military
objectives of an intervention will be fundamentally compromised.
Third, it should be made absolutely clear to Afghanistan's
neighbours that the days in which they could determine who
should rule Afghanistan are over. Pakistan still has much
to learn in this respect: the statement of Foreign Minister
Abdul Sattar on September 25, 2001 that any move by foreign
powers "to give assistance to one side or the other in
Afghanistan is a recipe for great suffering for the people
was not so much a mea culpa as a breathtaking display of effrontery.
In the last two decades, few countries have suffered more
than Afghanistan from the belief of adjacent states that they
have a right either to promote or to veto Afghan rulers. For
too long, Afghans have been told which leaders they must accept,
not asked which leaders they would like. This must change.
Fourth, the United Nations must play a major role in managing
the transition to a new set of political structures in Afghanistan,
and must be properly resourced to do so. The UN can provide
assistance to the Afghan people to enable them to determine
their own future. For stability to be assured, the people
of Afghanistan must have good reason to believe that the international
community is committed, substantially and for the long-term,
to see Afghanistan put back on its feet. The UN provides the
appropriate framework for such guarantees, and once Afghans
see that they will not again be cast adrift, they will hasten
to beat swords into ploughshares.
Fifth, there must be a recognition that the dire situation
in Afghanistan is a product not just of local but of transnational
factors. There is a need to address in a comprehensive fashion
the interlocking security dilemmas in South, Central, and
West Asia which have promoted destructive rather than constructive
patterns of behaviour. This approach must include Pakistan,
for an unstable, nuclear-armed Pakistan is in no one's interests.
If the Bush Administration moves with care and sensitivity
to support new architecture for regional cooperation and dialogue,
including even states with which America's relations have
been tense, the long-term benefits could be enormous.
Sixth, a new Marshall Plan should be implemented for Afghanistan
and its region. In his June 5, 1947 Harvard commencement address,
Secretary of State George C. Marshall declared that the European
recovery program would be directed "not against any country,
but against hunger, poverty, desperation, and chaos."
Each of these evils haunts present-day Afghanistan. Marshall's
far-sighted commitment to the postwar recovery of Europe helped
divert an historically fractious continent into an era of
unparalleled peace and prosperity. Afghanistan and its people
deserve no less.
WILLIAM MALEY is a professor in the School of Politics, University
College at the University of New South wales in Australia.
He has written widely on Afghanistan, and edited Fundamentalism
Reborn? Afghanistan and the Taliban (1998).
- For more detail on these matters, see Ian Cummins, Marx,
Engels and National Movements (New York: St. Martin's Press,
1980); Vendulka Kubálková and Albert Cruickshank,
Marxism-Leninism and Theory of International Relations (London:
Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1980); Walker Connor, The National
Question in Marxist-Leninist Theory and Practice (Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 1984); Vendulka Kubálková
and Albert Cruickshank, Marxism and International Relations
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985).
- Quoted in Norman Davies, Europe: A History (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1996) p.568.
- This splendid metaphor owes its revival to Sir Isaiah
Berlin: see Isaiah Berlin, The Crooked Timber of Humanity:
Chapters in the History of Ideas (London: John Murray, 1990).
- James P. Piscatori, Islam in a World of Nation States
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986) p.145.
- Olivier Roy, 'Has Islamism a Future in Afghanistan?',
in William Maley (ed.), Fundamentalism Reborn?: Afghanistan
and the Taliban (New York: New York University Press, 1998)
pp.199-211 at p.210.
- For an elaboration of this point, see Amin Saikal and
William Maley, 'From Soviet to Russian Foreign Policy',
in Amin Saikal and William Maley (eds.), Russia in Search
of its Future (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995)
pp.102-122 at p.102.
- See J.L. Austin, How to Do Things With Words (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 1975)
- Paul Wilkinson, Social Movement (London: Macmillan, 1971)
- Sidney Tarrow, Power in Movement: Social Movements, Collective
Action and Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
- Ibid., p.23.
- On the dimensions of this problem, see I. William Zartman
(ed.), Collapsed States: The Disintegration and Restoration
of Legitimate Authority (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 1995).
- See Robert D. Putnam, 'Diplomacy and domestic politics:
the logic of two-level games', International Organization,
vol.42, no.3, Summer 1988, pp.427-460.
- On the emergence of the Afghan state, see Sayed Qassem
Reshtia, Afghanistan dar qarn-e nozdeh (Kabul: Dawlat metbaeh,
1967); J.L. Lee, The 'Ancient Supremacy': Bukhara, Afghanistan
and the Battle for Balkh, 1731-1901 (Leiden: E.J. Brill,
1996); Christine Noelle, State and Tribe in Nineteenth-Century
Afghanistan: The Reign of Amir Dost Muhammad Khan (1826-1863)
(Richmond: Curzon Press, 1998). On the particular role of
Amir Abdul Rahman Khan, see Vartan Gregorian, The Emergence
of Modern Afghanistan: Politics of Reform and Modernization
1880-1946 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1969); M.
Hasan Kakar, Afghanistan: A Study of Internal Political
Developments 1880-1896 (Kabul and Lahore: Punjab Educational
Press, 1971); M. Hasan Kakar, Government and Society in
Afghanistan: The Reign of Amir Abd-al Rahman Khan (Austin:
University of Texas Press, 1979).
- See Ludwig W. Adamec, Afghanistan's Foreign Relations
to the Mid-Twentieth Century: Relations With the USSR, Germany,
and Britain (Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 1974);
Francis R. Nicosia, '"Drang nach Osten" Continued?
Germany and Afghanistan during the Weimar Republic', Journal
of Contemporary History, vol.32, no.2, July 1997, pp.235-257;
Leon B. Poullada and Leila D.J. Poullada, The Kingdom of
Afghanistan and the United States: 1828-1973 (Omaha: Center
for Afghanistan Studies, University of Nebraska at Omaha,
- See Louis Dupree, 'Myth and Reality in Afghan "Neutralism"',
Central Asian Survey, vol.7, nos.2-3, 1988, pp.145-151.
- See Louis Dupree, Afghanistan (Princeton: Princeton University
Press, 1980) pp.538-554.
- See Gabriella Grasselli, British and American Responses
to the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan (Aldershot: Dartmouth
Publishing, 1996) p.121.
- See 'Sekretnye dokumenty iz osobykh papok: Afganistan',
Voprosy istorii, no.3, 1993, pp.3-32; Odd Arne Westad, 'Prelude
to Invasion: The Soviet Union and the Afghan Communists,
1978-1979', International History Review, vol.16, no.1,
1994, pp.49-69; Raymond Garthoff, Détente and Confrontation:
American-Soviet Relations from Nixon to Reagan (Washington
DC: The Brookings Institution, 1994), pp.977-1075.
- Le Nouvel Observateur, 14 January 1998.
- See Graeme Gill and Roderic Pitty, Power in the Party:
The Organization of Power and Central-Republican Relations
in the CPSU (London: Macmillan, 1997) pp.149-154.
- There is by now a very large literature on the problems
of post-Soviet Central Asia. For a sampling, see Graham
E. Fuller, Central Asia: The New Geopolitics (Santa Monica:
Rand R-4219-USDP, 1992); Robert L. Canfield, 'Restructuring
in Greater Central Asia: Changing Political Configurations',
Asian Survey, vol.32, no.10, October 1992, pp.875-887; Ahmed
Rashid, The Resurgence of Central Asia: Islam or Nationalism?
(Karachi: Oxford University Press, 1994); Michael Mandelbaum
(ed.), Central Asia and the World: Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan,
Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan (New York: Council
on Foreign Relations Press, 1994); Anthony Hyman, Power
and Politics in Central Asia's New Republics (London: Conflict
Studies no.273, Research Institute for the Study of Conflict
and Terrorism, 1994); Anthony Hyman, Political Change in
Post-Soviet Central Asia (London: The Royal Institute of
International Affairs, 1994); Martha Brill Olcott, Central
Asia's New States: Independence, Foreign Policy, and Regional
Security (Washington DC: United States Institute of Peace
Press, 1996); R.D. McChesney, Central Asia: Foundations
of Change (Princeton: The Darwin Press, 1996); John Anderson,
The international politics of Central Asia (Manchester:
Manchester University Press, 1997); Olivier Roy, The New
Central Asia: The Creation of Nations (London: I.B. Tauris,
- See Ayesha Jalal, Democracy and Authoritarianism in South
Asia: A Comparative and Historical Perspective (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1995).
- See Amin Saikal, 'The Regional Politics of the Afghan
Crisis', in Amin Saikal and William Maley (eds.), The Soviet
Withdrawal from Afghanistan (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1989) pp.52-66.
- See Anwar-ul-haq Ahady, 'Saudi Arabia, Iran and the conflict
in Afghanistan', in William Maley (ed.), Fundamentalism
Reborn?: Afghanistan and the Taliban (New York: New York
University Press, 1998) pp.117-134.
- See Marvin G. Weinbaum, Pakistan and Afghanistan: Resistance
and Reconstruction (Boulder: Westview Press, 1994) pp.33-37.
- Anthony Davis, 'How the Taliban became a military force',
in William Maley (ed.), Fundamentalism Reborn?: Afghanistan
and the Taliban (New York: New York University Press, 1998)
pp.43-71 at p.70.
- For further discussion of the Taliban movement, see Barnett
R. Rubin, 'Women and pipelines: Afghanistan's proxy wars',
International Affairs, vol.73, no.2, April 1997, pp.283-296;
Rameen Moshref, The Taliban (New York: Occasional Paper
no.35, The Afghanistan Forum, May 1997); Kristian Berg Harpviken,
'Transcending Traditionalism: The Emergence of Non-State
Military Formations in Afghanistan', Journal of Peace Research,
vol.34, no.3, August 1997, pp.271-287; Bernt Glatzer, 'Die
Talibanbewegung: Einige religiöse, lokale und politische
Faktoren', Afghanistan Info, no.41, October 1997, pp.10-14;
William Maley, 'Introduction: Intepreting the Taliban',
in William Maley (ed.), Fundamentalism Reborn?: Afghanistan
and the Taliban (New York: New York University Press, 1998)
pp.1-28; Peter Marsden, The Taliban: War, Religion and the
New Order in Afghanistan (London: Zed Books, 1998); Kamal
Matinuddin, The Taliban Phenomenon: Afghanistan 1994-1997
(Karachi: Oxford University Press, 1999); Ahmed Rashid,
Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central
Asia (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000); Michael Griffin,
Reaping the Whirlwind: The Taliban Movement in Afghanistan
(London: Pluto Press, 2001).
- See Davis, 'How the Taliban became a military force'.
- Afghanistan-Crisis of Impunity: The Role of Pakistan,
Russia and Iran in Fueling the Civil War (New York: Human
Rights Watch, July 2001) p. 23.
- On the Deoband tradition, see Barbara D. Metcalf, Islamic
Revival in British India: Deoband, 1860-1900 (Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 1982).
- Kenneth J. Cooper, 'Afghanistan's Taliban: Going Beyond
Its Islamic Upbringing', The Washington Post, 9 March 1998.
- See Nancy Tapper, 'Abd al Rahman's North West Frontier:
The Pashtun Colonisation of Afghan Turkistan', in Richard
Tapper (ed.), The Conflict of Tribe and State in Iran and
Afghanistan (London: Croom Helm, 1983) pp.233-261.
- See Davis, 'How the Taliban became a military force',
p.54; and Ahmed Rashid, 'Pakistan and the Taliban', in William
Maley (ed.), Fundamentalism Reborn?: Afghanistan and the
Taliban (New York: New York University Press, 1998) pp.72-89
- For details, see Ahmed Rashid, 'Afghanistan: Heart of
Darkness', Far Eastern Economic Review, 5 August 1999, pp.8-12;
Anthony Davis, 'One Man's Holy War', Asiaweek, 6 August
- Reuters, 30 July 1999.
- Michael Keating, 'Women's Rights and Wrongs', The World
Today, vol.53, no.1, January 1997, pp.11-12 at p.12.
- Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were the only
other states to grant the Taliban recognition, something
they did in 1997. Each withdrew its recognition following
the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in
- For more detailed discussion, see Hersch Lauterpacht,
Recognition in International Law (Cambridge; Cambridge University
Press, 1948); James Crawford, The Creation of States in
International Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979);
Stefan Talmon, Recognition of Governments in International
Law: With Particular Reference to Governments in Exile (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 1998).
- See, for example, Sarah Horner, 'Kabul falls under the
Islamic lash', The Sunday Times, 29 September 1996; Christopher
Thomas, 'Militants bring a veil down on battered Kabul',
The Times, 30 September 1996; John F. Burns, 'For Women
in Kabul, Peace at the Price of Repression', The New York
Times, 4 October 1996; Jon Swain, 'Kabul hushed by Taliban
dark age', The Sunday Times, 6 October 1996.
- Lauterpacht, Recognition in International Law, p.93.
- Bruno Simma (ed.), The Charter of the United Nations:
A Commentary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995) p.224.
- See BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, FE/3164/A/2-3, 2
- See Barnett R. Rubin, The Fragmentation of Afghanistan:
State Formation and Collapse in the International System
(New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995) p.297.
- Rashid, 'Pakistan and the Taliban', p.76.
- For further details, see William Maley, 'The Perils of
Pipelines', The World Today, vol.54, nos.8-9, August-September
- Reuters, 1 October 1996.
- Ahmed Rashid, The Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan Pipeline:
Company-Government Relations and Regional Politics (Washington
DC: Focus on Current Issues, The Petroleum Finance Company,
October 1997) p.10. Rashid notes that 'the Taliban's negotiating
team with the oil companies is made up of half a dozen mullahs
with a madrassa education and one engineering student who
has never practiced engineering' and that the Taliban's
'Minister for Mines and Energy
was a carpet dealer
in Saudi Arabia before joining the movement'.
- Reuters, 11 March 1998.
- Agence France Presse, 24 August 1998.
- For a detailed discussion, see Rashid, Taliban: Militant
Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia, pp. 157-182.
- See Zareen F. Naqvi, Afghanistan-Pakistan Trade Relations
(Islamabad: The World Bank, 1999) p. 1. There is nothing
secretive about this smuggling; in May 1998, the present
writer saw trucks laden with new color televisions (an item
banned by the Taliban) driving through Jalalabad towards
the border with Pakistan. For further detail, see Ahmed
Rashid, 'Wages of War', Far Eastern Economic Review, 5 August
- On the background to the production of opium in Afghanistan,
see Hazhir Teimourian, 'Drug baron in the border hills',
The Times, 25 September 1989; Scott B. McDonald, 'Afghanistan's
Drug Trade', Society, vol.29, no.5, 1992, pp.61-66; Alain
Labrousse, 'L'opium de la guerre', Les Nouvelles d'Afghanistan,
no.68, 1995, pp.18-20.
- See William Maley, 'Approaches to Transnational Security
Issues in the Asia-Pacific', in Abdul Razak Baginda and
Anthony Bergin (eds.), Asia-Pacific's Security Dilemma (London:
ASEAN Academic Press, 1998) pp.109-122.
- See 'Entretien avec Mollah Mohammad Omar', Politique
internationale, no. 74, Winter 1996-97, pp. 135-143 at pp.
- Afghanistan: Annual Opium Poppy Survey 1998 (Islamabad:
Drug Control Monitoring System AFG/C27, UNDCP, 1998).
- See Final report on the situation of human rights in
Afghanistan submitted by Mr. Choong-Hyun Paik, Special Rapporteur,
in accordance with Commission on Human Rights resolution
1996/75 (United Nations: E/CN.4/1997/59, 20 February 1997)
- See Andrew Meier, 'Afghanistan's Drug Trade', Muslim
Politics Report, no.11, January-February 1997, pp.3-4 at
- International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, 1997
(Washington DC: Bureau for International Narcotics and Law
Enforcement Affairs, US Department of State, March 1998).
- Global Illicit Drug Trends 2001 (Vienna: United Nations
Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention, 2001) p. 35.
- See A.W. Najimi, Report on a Survey on SCA Supported
Girls' Education and SCA Built School Buildings in Afghanistan
in Regions under Southern and Eastern SCA Regional Management
(Peshawar: Educational Technical Support Unit, Swedish Committee
for Afghanistan, 29 August 1997).
- See Final report on the situation of human rights in
Afghanistan submitted by Mr. Choong-Hyun Paik, Special Rapporteur,
in accordance with Commission on Human Rights resolution
1996/75, Appendix I. Other decrees, detailed in this report,
banned music and tape cassettes, beard trimming, kite flying,
pictures and portraits, dancing at wedding parties, the
playing of drums, and 'British and American hairstyles'.
Not all these decrees are enforced with equal rigor; nevertheless,
what is important is that they are available to be enforced
should that be the whim of a particular official of the
- Afghanistan Country Report on Human Rights Practices
for 1997 (Washington DC: Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights,
and Labor, US Department of State, February 1998).
- Report of the Secretary-General on the situation of women
and girls in Afghanistan, submitted in accordance with Sub-Commission
resolution 1999/14 (United Nations: E/CN.4/Sub.2/2000/18,
July 21, 2000) para. 12.
- For a detailed discussion, see Nancy Hatch Dupree, 'Afghan
women under the Taliban', in William Maley (ed.), Fundamentalism
Reborn?: Afghanistan and the Taliban (New York: New York
University Press, 1998) pp.145-166.
- On these developments, see Dupree, Afghanistan, pp.530-533;
Fahima Rahimi, Women in Afghanistan (Liestal: Stiftung Bibliotheca
Afghanica, 1986); Nancy Hatch Dupree, 'Afghanistan: Women,
Society and Development', in Joseph G. Jabbra and Nancy
W. Jabbra (eds.), Women and Development in the Middle East
and North Africa (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1992) pp.30-42; William
Maley, 'Women and Public Policy in Afghanistan: A Comment',
World Development, vol.24, no.1, January 1996, pp.203-206.
- See Nancy Hatch Dupree, 'Revolutionary Rhetoric and Afghan
Women', in M. Nazif Shahrani and Robert L. Canfield (eds.),
Revolutions and Rebellions in Afghanistan: Anthropological
Perspectives (Berkeley: Institute of International Studies,
University of California, 1984) pp.306-340; Micheline Centlivres-Demont,
'Afghan Women in Peace, War, and Exile', in Myron Weiner
and Ali Banuazizi (eds.), The Politics of Social Transformation
in Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan (Syracuse: Syracuse University
Press, 1994) pp.333-365.
- See Inger W. Boesen, 'What Happens to Honour in Exile?
Continuity and Change among Afghan Refugees', in Bo Huldt
and Erland Jansson (eds.), The Tragedy of Afghanistan: The
Social Cultural and Political Impact of the Soviet Invasion
(London: Croom Helm, 1988) pp.219-239 at pp.236-237.
- On this experience, see Women in Afghanistan: A Human
Rights Catastrophe (London: Amnesty International, ASA 11/03/95,
1995). For Amnesty International's assessment of the status
of women under the Taliban, see Women in Afghanistan: The
Violations Continue (London: Amnesty International, ASA
11/05/97, June 1997).
- Voice of America, 19 March 1998.
- BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, FE/3136/A/2, 28 January
- BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, FE/3145/A/2, 7 February
- See Christiane Amanpour, 'Tyranny of the Taliban', Time,
13 October 1997.
- Reuters, 29 September 1997
- BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, FE/3172/A/1, 11 March
- Reuters, 18 November 1997.
- BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, FE/3083/A/2, 22 November
- See Olivier Roy, The Lessons of the Soviet/Afghan War
(London: Adelphi Paper no.259, International Institute for
Strategic Studies, Brassey's, 1991 ) p.40.
- Sharon Waxman, 'A Cause Unveiled: Hollywood Women Have
Made the Plight of Afghan Women Their Own-Sight Unseen',
The Washington Post, 30 March 1999, p.C01; Judy Mann, 'The
Grinding Terror of the Taliban', The Washington Post, 9
July 1999, p.C11.
- The Taliban's War on Women: A Health and Human Rights
Crisis in Afghanistan (Boston: Physicians for Human Rights,
1998). For a further analysis from the same organization,
see Women's Health and Human Rights in Afghanistan: A Population-Based
Assessment (Boston: Physicians for Human Rights, 2001).
- Agence France Presse, 29 December 1997. A similar statement-'we
do not care about anybody as long as the religion of Allah
is maintained'-has been made by the high-ranking Taliban
official Mullah Mohammad Hassan: see Interim report on the
situation of human rights in Afghanistan submitted by the
Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights in
accordance with General Assembly resolution 51/108 and Economic
and Social Council decision 1997/273 (United Nations: A/52/493,
16 October 1997) para.29.
- UN Daily Highlights: Thursday 19 March 1998 (New York:
Office of Communications and of Public Information, United
Nations, 19 March 1998). The Director-General's comments
were prompted by reports of public executions carried out
by the Taliban, whose means of inflicting capital punishment
have included cutting of throats, and-in one particularly
grisly case-the beheading of the victim with a blunt knife:
see Caroline Lees, 'Police outlaw Afghan video of beheading',
Daily Telegraph, 29 June 1997. The video in question was
screened on Uzbek State Television on 9 July 1997: see BBC
Summary of World Broadcasts FE/2970/A/1, 14 July 1997.
- Agence France Presse, 20 March 1998.
- Associated Press, 24 March 1998. In addition to striking
an officer of the UN Development Programme, Mullah Hassan
also threw a teapot, and attempted to throw a table at another
- Zahid Hussain, 'UN forced out of Kandahar', The Times,
25 March 1998.
- Associated Press, 28 March 1998.
- Agence France Presse, 24 March 1998.
- For the full text, see 'Memorandum of Understanding between
The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and The United Nations
13 May 1998', International Journal of Refugee Law, vol.10,
no.3, July 1998, pp.586-592.
- Medical Group Condemns UN Agreement with Taliban (Boston:
Physicians for Human Rights, 29 June 1998).
- The security in question mainly takes the form of easier
movement on roads, and therefore most benefits those NGOs
(and UN and other international agencies) with large supplies
to move. It also benefits smugglers and opium traders: see
Barnett R. Rubin, "The Political Economy of Peace and
War in Afghanistan" World Development 28: 10 (October
2000): 1789-1803. The phenomenon of NGOs lauding the incorruptibility
of extremist groups is a familiar one: see Linda Mason and
Roger Brown, Rice, Rivalry and Politics: Managing Cambodian
Relief (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1983)
- See William Maley, 'Mine Action in Afghanistan', Refuge,
vol.17, no.4, October 1998, pp.12-16 at p.15.
- Agence France Presse, 24 July 1998.
- Agence France Presse, 28 July 1999.
- BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, FE/3569/A/1, 24 June
- Humanitarian Assistance for Afghanistan: Weekly Update
(Geneva: United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian
Assistance to Afghanistan) no.424, August 9, 2001: 1.
- Pakistan's denial that it supports the Taliban forms
part of a longstanding pattern of denial of involvement
in Afghanistan. Former Secretary of State Shultz recorded
in his memoirs a conversation which Pakistani President
Zia ul-Haq had with President Reagan in 1988 after the signing
of the Geneva Accords on Afghanistan: 'I heard the president
ask Zia how he would handle the fact that they would be
violating their agreement. Zia replied that they would "just
lie about it. We've been denying our activities there for
eight years".': George P. Shultz, Turmoil and Triumph:
My Years as Secretary of State (New York: Scribner's, 1993)
- Ahmed Rashid, 'Final Offensive?', Far Eastern Economic
Review, 5 August 1999, p.12.
- On these events, see Maley, 'Introduction: Interpreting
the Taliban', pp.10-14; Anthony Davis, 'Taliban found lacking
when nation-building beckoned', Jane's Intelligence Review,
vol.9, no.8, August 1997, pp.359-364.
- Rashid, 'Pakistan and the Taliban', p.73.
- For further detail on Pakistani groups backed by the
Taliban, see Muhammad Qasim Zaman, 'Sectarianism in Pakistan:
The Radicalization of Shi'i and Sunni Identities', Modern
Asian Studies, vol.32, part 3, July 1998, pp.689-716; S.V.
R. Nasr, "The Rise of Sunni Militancy in Pakistan:
The Changing Role of Islamism and the Ulama in Society and
Politics" Modern Asian Studies 34: I (January 2000):
139-180; Vali R. Nasr, "International Politics, Domestic
Imperatives, and Identity Mobilization: Sectarianism in
Pakistan, 1979-1998" Comparative Politics 32: 2 (January
- See David Busby Edwards, 'The Evolution of Shi'i Political
Dissent in Afghanistan', in Juan R.I. Cole and Nikki R.
Keddie (eds.) Shi'ism and Social Protest (New Haven: Yale
University Press, 1986) pp.201-229; Hassan Poladi, The Hazaras
(Stockton: Moghul Press, 1989); Kristian Berg Harpviken,
Political Mobilization among the Hazaras of Afghanistan:
1978-1992 (Oslo: Report no. 9, Department of Sociology,
University of Oslo, 1996); Sayed Askar Mousavi, The Hazaras
of Afghanistan: An Historical, Cultural, Economic, and Political
Study (Richmond: Curzon Press, 1998). On the contemporary
political activities of Hazaras, see Hafizullah Emadi, 'Exporting
Iran's Revolution: The Radicalization of the Shiite Movement
in Afghanistan', Middle Eastern Studies, vol. 31, no. 1,
January 1995, pp. 1-12; Hafizullah Emadi, 'The Hazaras and
their role in the process of political transformation in
Afghanistan', Central Asian Survey, vol. 16, no. 3, September
1997, pp. 363-387.
- Reuters, 4 October 1996.
- BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, FE/3145/A/2, 7 February
- For details, see Afghanistan: The Massacre in Mazar-i
Sharif (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1998); Kenneth J.
Cooper, 'Taliban Massacre Based on Ethnicity', The Washington
Post, 28 November 1998, p.A01.
- See Dana Priest, 'Iran Poises Its Forces On Afghan Border:
Analysts Warn Of "Incursion" Targeting Taliban',
The Washington Post, 5 September 1998, p.A01; Adam Garfinkle,
'Afghanistanding', Orbis, vol.43, no.3, Summer 1999, pp.405418.
- For a more detailed discussion of US-Taliban relations,
see Richard Mackenzie, 'The United States and the Taliban',
in William Maley (ed.), Fundamentalism Reborn?: Afghanistan
and the Taliban (New York: New York University Press, 1998)
- On this trip, see Dennis Kux, The United States and Pakistan
1947-2000: Disenchanted Allies (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins
University Press, 2001) p. 335.
- Crosslines Global Report, nos.22-23, August 1996, p.13.
Raphel also 'spoke favorably of the Taliban' during Congressional
hearings: see Ralph H. Magnus and Eden Naby, Afghanistan:
Mullah, Marx, and Mujahid (Boulder: Westview Press, 1998)
- See Olivier Roy, 'Avec les talibans, la charia plus le
gazoduc', Le Monde diplomatique, November 1996, pp.6-7;
Rashid, Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism
in Central Asia, p. 163
- Voice of America, 27 September 1996.
- Zalmay Khalilzad, 'Afghanistan: Time to Reengage', The
Washington Post, 7 October 1996.
- Barnett R. Rubin, 'U.S. Policy in Afghanistan', Muslim
Politics Report, no.11, January-February 1997, pp.1-2, 6.
- On Arabs in Afghanistan, see Anthony Davis, 'Foreign
Combatants in Afghanistan', Jane's Intelligence Review,
vol.5, no.7, July 1993, pp.327-331; Anthony Hyman, 'Arab
Involvement in the Afghan War', The Beirut Review, no.7,
Spring 1994, pp.73-89; Barnett R. Rubin, 'Arab Islamists
in Afghanistan', in John L. Esposito, Political Islam: Revolution,
Radicalism, or Reform? (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 1997) pp.179-206.
- Steve LeVine, 'Helping Hand', Newsweek, 14 October 1997.
On Bin Laden's earlier involvement with the Afghan Mujahideen,
see R. Hrair Dekmejian, 'The Rise of Political Islamism
in Saudi Arabia', The Middle East Journal, vol.48, no.4,
Autumn 1994, pp.627-643 at p.641.
- 'Executive Order: Blocking Property and Prohibiting Transactions
with the Taliban', Federal Register, vol.64, no.129, 7 July
1999. See also John Lancaster, 'Afghanistan Rulers Accused
of Giving Terrorist Refuge: Clinton Bans Trading With Taliban
Militia', The Washington Post, 7 July 1999, p.A15.
- 'Gohar warns of new arms race in region', Dawn, 12 March
1998. The Pakistan Foreign Office subsequently made a somewhat
laboured attempt to repair the damage done by this outburst:
see 'FO Clarifies Gohar's Remarks', Dawn, 13 March 1998.
- See Zalmay Khalilzad and Daniel Byman, "Afghanistan:
The Consolidation of a Rogue State" The Washington
Quarterly 23:1 (Winter 2000): 65-78.
- Pakistan was a vocal and energetic critic of these sanctions,
not least because those imposed by Resolution 1333 were
directed against Pakistan in all but name. Pakistan dressed
its critique in humanitarian garb. However, the UN Secretary-General
in July 2001 advised that while "there are adverse
humanitarian effects from the current sanctions regime",
those effects "are limited, and their scope and magnitude
is greatly exceeded by the effects of the other factors
causing humanitarian suffering, most notably the unprecedented
drought, the continuation of the conflict and the widespread
deprivation of human rights": see Report of the Secretary-General
on the humanitarian implications of the measures imposed
by Security Council resolutions 1267 (1999) and 1333 (2000)
on Afghanistan (New York: United Nations, S/2001/695, July
13, 2001) para. 67.
- See Anthony Hyman, 'Russia, Central Asia and the Taliban',
in William Maley (ed.), Fundamentalism Reborn?: Afghanistan
and the Taliban (New York: New York University Press, 1998)
- On this damage, see Amin Saikal and William Maley, Regime
Change in Afghanistan: Foreign Intervention and the Politics
of Legitimacy (Boulder: Westview Press, 1991) pp.135-142.
- For evidence which establishes this very clearly, see
John Löwenhardt, The Reincarnation of Russia: Struggling
with the Legacy of Communism, 1990-1994 (Durham: Duke University
Press, 1995); Stephen White, Richard Rose, and Ian McAllister,
How Russia Votes (Chatham: Chatham House, 1997); Matthew
Wyman, Public Opinion in Postcommunist Russia (London: Macmillan,
- See Françoise Chipaux, "Le rôle ambigu
des talibans dans l'affaire du détournement de l'Airbus"
Le Monde, January 7, 2000; Ayaz Gul, "Eyewitness in
Kandahar" Asiaweek, January 14, 2000.
- See Barnett R. Rubin, Ashraf Ghani, William Maley, Ahmed
Rashid and Olivier Roy, Afghanistan: Reconstruction and
Peacebuilding in a Regional Framework (Bern: KOFF Peacebuilding
Reports no.1/2001, Swiss Peace Foundation, 2001) p. 12.
- On the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas, see Pierre
Centlivres, "Adieu aux Bouddhas de Bamiyan" Afghanistan
Info 48 (March 2001): 6-7; Véra Marigo, "Bamyan:
Naissance et destruction de deux géants" Les
Nouvelles d'Afghanistan 93 (April-June 2001):16-21.
- "Today", BBC Radio 4, 25 September 2001.
- R.W. Apple, Jr., "Issue Now: Does U.S. Have a Plan?",
The New York Times, September 27, 2001.
- See Rubin, Ghani, Maley, Rashid, and Roy, Afghanistan:
Reconstruction and Peacebuilding in a Regional Framework,
- Quoted in Henry A. Kissinger, Diplomacy (New York: Simon
& Schuster, 1994) p. 454.